Denver Does Terraces: Standing in Major League Soccer

supporters-terrace

In Chicago, we in Section 8 have two sections of Toyota Park designated for standing supporters, though they were not custom built for this purpose; they are, however, benches, so it’s easy enough to stand on top of them or in front of them. This has caused problems: they are obviously not built for people standing (and often jumping) on them, and for the first couple of seasons at Toyota Park, this caused enormous friction between the supporters and the stadium management as the backs of the benches would often break.

The solution, it turned out, was obvious (and cheaper in the long-run than replacing benches): reinforce the benches, and remove the backs. The former has been done for all of both sections, while the latter has been done for the first ten rows of both sections. But there are still problems with the benches when the sections are overcrowded (I’d estimate a good 1,500 folks were packed into sections with a capacity of around 1,100 at the last playoff game). It’s awesome we are allowed to stand, but the set-up isn’t ideal.

In Colorado, they are going further in their efforts to accommodate standing supporters. The temporary metal bleachers at the north end are being replaced with an actual terraced standing area designated for adult supporters — though no renderings have been released, the targeted date for completion is the home opener in a couple of months, coincidentally against the Chicago Fire.

The Rapids official site says:

In a move that will transform the way the world’s game is supported in the Rocky Mountain region, the Colorado Rapids announced today their plans for the creation of the new “Supporters Terrace” behind the north goal at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for 2010 and beyond.

Using the stadium’s unique design, this new Supporters Terrace will become an adult-oriented area designed to allow for the exuberance of the Rapids’ most passionate fans.

This move to create a new section of the stadium specifically to appeal to the Rapids’ adult demographic was conceptualized and created in conjunction with the Rapids’ existing supporters club leaders and will allow for their voices and energy to be felt in a whole new manner.

Season tickets in the supporters terrace are a highly reasonable $216. The Rapids’ front office has for some time had poor relations with its supporters’ groups, who hamstrung by these relations, have grown very slowly in their previous sliver in the corner of the stadium. And the rest of the stadium hasn’t exactly been packed out; the photo below handily illustrates both the area that will become the “terrace” and the emptiness of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, a gorgeous stadium opened in 2007 with a near 20,000 capacity that saw just a 12,331 average attendance for MLS games in 2009.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park

MLS has now put what it calls the “hardcore supporter” at the centre of its marketing plan, following the successes in Toronto and Seattle. This move by the Rapids front office should be seen in that light: it’s an effort to draw a line under previous failures, and offer a new way to entice supporters in, finally together in an end behind the goal they can stand in and not worry about offending nearby fans.

The Rapids press release goes on to say “Flags, banners, instruments, singing and other passionate support of the team at home games will all be encouraged, making the Supporters Terrace the place to be for Colorado’s most enthusiastic soccer fans.”

For years, fans around the league have had to fight for the rights to do all of that. Now finally, clubs are going out of their way to promote actitivities that were previously looked on as somehow subversive.

It will be interesting to see what this actual terrace looks like once its constructed (capacity, structure etc), and fascinating to see if it does spark more sales in the supporters’ section and a better atmosphere at the stadium.

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